When I was a child, I wanted to be an adult. When I was a young mother I longed for moments of peace and quiet. Now that my children are grown, and the house is much quieter, I miss the days of chaos, laughter, and a house strewn with toys and a schedule filled with their activities. There are times when I wish I had been more in tune with all that was going on in my life and really appreciated it while I had it. Why is it that so often we wish for the next season of life to arrive, or grieve over for a previous season that now seems to have passed too quickly? In this article it is my hope that you will be able to glean some insights into how to lessen the sting of regret later in life, as well as how to truly be present in the moments in which you are currently living.
One key to living with no regrets is to be fully present in the moment. One of the reasons we end up with regrets is because we allowed moments to rush past us without fully experiencing or appreciating them. One of the ways we can prevent this from happening is to be intentional about being present in the moment. In psychology we refer to this practice as mindfulness. Being mindful involves being aware of what is happening within yourself, as well as around you.
Here is a mindfulness activity that you can try right now: Breathe in slowly, allow your lungs to be filled deeply with air. Notice the feeling. Exhale, slowly. Listen to the sound your breath makes. Continue breathing in this slow, steady manner. Now move to the world outside of your body, simply observe the information that your senses are taking in. Notice the sights, sounds, sensations on your skin, scents, and tastes. Notice how your body feels. As you continue to breathe in this manner, place a hand over your heart. What emotions are you feeling? Become curious about those emotions. Try to sit with the emotion and simply allow it to be without judgement or rushing it off.
A second key to living with no regrets is to invest in the relationships that are in our lives, while they are in our lives. In Ecclesiastes 3 we are told, "there is a season for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens". Every single activity and relationship has an appointed time, laughing, crying, being sick, being healthy, having our hands busy and having our hands empty. Our lives are designed to have a rhythm of joys and sorrows. One of the things that makes our experience of joy so wonderful is that we are also keenly aware of what sorrow feels like. There is a beauty and sacredness to both of the experiences. We experience life within the context of various relationships. Practice being present in the moments that these relationships offer. I recommend doing this in both the pleasant and unpleasant relationships. Note how your body physically feels in the relationship or activity. Are there any areas of your body that are tight or painful? Do you feel physically safe and relaxed? Whatever the physical sensation, take note of it. Check in with yourself and reflect on the emotion you are feeling. Truly take notice of the other person in the experience with you. Try to commit to memory small things that you see that make them unique; things like the sound of their voice, or the way they smile. Be curious about how they may feel physically and emotionally. Take time to look into their eyes. If there is an opportunity, you may even want to discuss or share what you are experiencing with the other person. Many people find that in sharing their joy it increases and in sharing their grief/struggle it decreases. The fact of the matter is that we are designed for relationships and for relationships to be formed there must be some degree of sharing. For relationships to be cherished they must be experienced in the moment as they are happening. Regrets are created by looking back on times that we rushed ahead or failed to take action.
The third key to living with no regrets is to practice the art of gratitude. Take notice of things of beauty and things that spark joy in you. Speak words of gratitude. This is an important step, the actual speaking of the gratitude. This will help solidify the feeling as well as the memory. It will open your eyes to the good in your life. The more you look for and recognize good, the more you will find good. We also can find this idea in scripture.
“For to everyone who has [and values his blessings and gifts from God, and has used them wisely], more will be given, and [he will be richly supplied so that] he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have [because he has ignored or disregarded his blessings and gifts from God], even what he does have will be taken away." Matthew 25:29 AMP
The fourth and fifth keys to living with no regrets are forgiveness and letting go. We can choose to forgive people who have wronged us. This frees us from our bondage to the past and releases us for our healing journey. There is so much healing that can take place when we are able to let go of past situations and people which we cannot change. We can choose to gratefully accept any good that was entwined in the experience and be thankful for any lessons we learned as a result of the experience or relationship. When we do this we are free to create a new experience where there once was regret. If it was a relationship where you were hurt, rejected, unloved, or abandoned, you can pray for the person, even from a distance. This is usually easier said than done, especially in the beginning. However, if you implement this practice God will be faithful to change your heart and eventually you will find that the anger, resentment, and bitterness that you once clung to will slowly begin to disappear. As this happens you will notice that your regret for the situation will begin to diminish. Your focus will shift on to what you gained as a result of the situation or relationship.
Living in the moment, investing in your current relationships, practicing gratitude, choosing to forgive and let go are key components of living a life without regrets. It is my hope that as you engage in these practices you find joy in each moment and have a sense of peace regarding the life you have lived to this point.